You have to evolve and grow and become a stronger individual through life experiences. I've recently been through a very black period and it has left me determined about several things. Most importantly, I must take better care of myself and that includes all forms of health mental and physical. I've disowned nearly all heavy metal and even a lot of offshoots. I need to start giving myself a heavy dose of Europe in the form of German masterpiece albums like my fave Walpurgis's QUEEN OF SABA- their only album and the one absolutely essential-for-every-collection album on the otherwise lame OHR label. I am planning to see Germany for the first time this year by saving a lot of money. Germany is a country I have a lot of love for for many reasons. My next blog will be all on Walpurgis. Most of the sun coming into my life now is not coming anymore from England. In a dark and disillusioned state I listen a lot to albums like QUEEN OF SABA (actually fairly upbeat), Fairy Tale's ONCE UPON A TIME, and New Zealand Trading Company who you'll read about here. I'm no longer an Anglophile. That is the biggest change of them all. I've been through hatred-of-England periods before, but they never lasted that long and it always was over something that could be mended. You can't mend a heart that's been broken or anger that's been brought on as many times as mine. However, I still love British bands and I still have some really amazing friends in England who I talk to regularly including several I'd like to meet in the top notch Parachute Regiment. The Paras, as they refer to themselves as and are referred to, are not just Britain's elite fighting force, but they usually are a really good bunch who care about devotion to other people as well as their own mates. I don't hate England as I will never allow myself to hate any country, but the constant slamming of America, Germany, well you know it British Nationalism is a really disturbingly sick offshoot of Patriotism. There is nothing wrong with being Patriotic, but keep an open mind.
Lately I just can't stomach much heavy metal anymore and I'm growing more and more sick of music that all sounds too redundantly loud for a whole album or career. I guess I could elude to The Rolling Stones- once one of the greats and now for a long time (really since shortly after Brian Jones died) a bad joke unless you catch them in concert (I wish I could!). Still, when Jagger/Richards and cohorts became a bad joke they became really funny so funny that I think it is intentional. The Stones love coming to America. It's used to be a lot of a grass-is-greener case especially with me and some musicians. You get British bands who really just want to conquer America and American bands who want to conquer England. It was much more so that way in the 60s and 70s when the swapping of influences hit big leading right here to a different swapping in New Zealand Trading Company. All native Maoris they wrote all their own material except for an insane cover of "Hey Jude" and instead of British or American influences they oddly enough went heavily for a Northern European sound. We'll get to them soon, but cold weather sounds are funny coming from a band from a Subtropical climate for most of the year. Also, add to that the name New Zealand Trading Company to throw people off. They sound as far removed from New Zealand as Denmark! Now we'll move to another little bit of writing and thinking.
-Are Europe And America Better Than England? A Question Without An Easy Answer-
Nowadays I spend so much time listening to music and getting pickier and pickier that if you want to impress me you've gotta really be something outrageously fantastic. I'm getting more and more into bands from America and Europe and would make an exception for New Zealand Trading Company and consider them European since their sound is more than 100% not New Zealand complete with thickly accented vocals and a strong Dutch/Danish vibe that is almost as if they'd recorded the album in Holland or Denmark. That may be the case. As nobody can dig up much information on the group the question as to where did they record the album and who got involved in the album during the recording to make it sound so good is up for investigation seemingly long term. I personally feel that I have spent too much time listening to British bands of all levels of quality from the best that I still place really high up there right down to complete mediocrity in the world of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. Now I have no interest in heavy metal from ANY country. My British music is like my music from anywhere- more thoughtful even when rocking out hard. I never listen to shit music from anywhere, but let's just say that I was listening to some pretty shit metal from England, mainly on YouTube, but now I limit myself to Tygers Of Pan Tang and Diamond Head- only the masters will do. I don't even like Black Sabbath anymore. I find them stiff and sludgy.
Paul Major, though a very good friend, referred to The Open Mind as "stiff." No! Not at all! The Open Mind is a classic. England made so much possible, but not everything. Most of my favorite British records that are still favorite British records will not appeal to a whole lot of people who will go out and praise some British bands that I have a lot of trouble listening to. Read Canterbury Prog and I never liked any Canterbury bands except for early Caravan. These people usually are prog snobs or psych nuts who won't listen to anything that could ever be considered in the least bit commercial. I love good hooks and good melodies, clever songwriting, and great playing combined. Face up to the truth Ben, you're a perfectionist. Before I move onto this twisted gem let me thank and give a thumbs down to some people. In my thank you column all my really good friends both home and abroad who have stuck by me, all the good people who have given me a lot of helpful advice I really should and will heed, animals, artists, writers who write good poetry and literature, the good soldiers of ALL COUNTRIES, and all good music. In my thumbs down and wish you were dead column The Rifles Regiment of England who have caused unbearable pain and all nationalists, racists, bigots, prejudiced and hate-driven hate-loving sick people everywhere. If you don't have your mind open and have it screwed on better to have it blown off! To answer my own question the only answer that makes sense is that England isn't the paradise I'd thought it was, but no country is. Generally speaking Europeans and Americans are friendlier and Germany seems to really have a lot going for it, but there isn't a "best and better than any other" country. You take the good aspects of every country and then you'll be there where you should be. You don't pin all your hopes and dreams on just one country. That is the lesson I've had to learn about England.
-The New Zealand Trading Company Dark As It Gets With A Tropical Breeze-
It just doesn't get any better than this album for progressive rock with strong psychedelic leanings and I find it rather shocking that the only groups they are compared to are usually the polar opposite Strawberry Alarm Clock and Association! What The Hell!? To tell you the truth if you want light mellowed out dreamy psych this album has dreamy moments, but it is firmly a progressive record. There are a lot of jazz influences, a wide array of instrumentation, and despite the vocal led selections that cover this brilliant slice of vinyl perfection the vocals have a strong dark prog vibe to them that sounds sinuous even at the most breezy and joyful moment which is the stellar opening track "Oh What A Day." If you see this record in a store and your reaction is "Boy Are Those Six Ugly Guys!" don't put it back- buy it. You could be passing by one of the still undiscovered treasures of the early 70s. The Maoris are the Native peoples of NZ who had terrible acts of genocide committed against them just like the Australian Aborigines and American Indians. There is a lot of anger on this record and the fact that the band are criticizing so much of society and the evils of man really shouldn't be surprising. What is amazing is that "Oh What A Day" perfectly sums up the simple fact that man is only a true man of the earth when he is the closest to earth and to nature in a song that isn't an epic, but a short and joyful melodic progressive pop work of real integrity. The vocals are strong and very dramatic. The harmonies soar and right off the bat I'm thinking of Ache when they went for the heavily vocal oriented sound in 1976 as opposed to their earlier instrumentally driven attack. "Oh What A Day" like the rest of the album has thick accented vocals that sound very Dutch, Danish, or German and a backing with driving guitar, crisp rhythms, and some remarkably beautiful flute melodies.
"Jam And Anti Freeze" is one of the most bizarre song titles I ever have seen on a record. Don't ask me what it means, but it sounds pretty creepy and the song itself can send more than a few chills up and down your spine. After the beautiful flute driven "Oh What A Day" comes this ominous psych into prog track with very creative dark winding venomous harmonies which at times scream and cackle in what sounds like an outbreak of rage. There are a million time changes, freaky vibes, dark jazzy guitar riffs, screaming fuzz tone passages, and quite a bit of eerie freaky organ work is used. A six piece band you can hear the fullness of their sound on the first two tracks with a very powerful contrast in atmosphere between these first two songs. I will quote you how this scary little track ends:
"Along The Road Ride Horsemen Who Are Picking Fruit From Trees While Baby Builds A Castle Of Jam And Anti Freeze- Jam And Anti Freeze! Jam And Anti Freeze!"
It sounds like a beach that has been covered in garbage and waste and destruction and that is the vibe of this song- waste and destruction all around and no way you can avert your eyes or in this case your ears and mind away from it. Still, it isn't so creepy you can't listen to it. If you know the Ache record PICTURES FROM CYCLUS 7 imagine an alternate take of "Still Hungry (Vampire Song)."
"Nine To Five" is a topic covered by a million artists. Again, though, New Zealand Trading Company tread along a darker path and spice it up a whole lot more with dexterous passages of riffing guitars, swirling organ, and a nimble rhythm section who add a lot to the complexity. The song chronicles the nervous breakdown of an overstressed conformist office worker who goes completely mad and whose whole life has no meaning, nothing in it but misery and pain. Vocally these guys are really out there- tight yet both strongly harmonious and abrasive in the most subtle manner possible. This is also very much like Ache or Old Man And The Sea who I have only heard on YouTube and can't really comment on especially as my dream of getting an original copy will probably never become something that really happens. I bet this band are the only Mayoris who sound like Danish or Dutchmen! I will mention two other bands who this album bears a resemblance to- Earth And Fire and Golden Earrings/Earring. Both as you know are Dutch. My first guess when hearing this album was they were a Dutch band. Well, no, but it could have been recorded there. That is open to speculation. "Nine To Five" is a stunning track and a very sympathetic story song. There isn't a hero and an anti Hero boss isn't brought in either. You could say that it sounds existentialist, but it is something more like a narrative about conformity and redundancy in a man's life that he thinks will keep him safe, but ultimately what drives him to a nightmarish state.
"Hey Jude" goes on for over 8 minutes and the histrionic progressive take on the Beatles/McCartney classic really sounds full of yet more anger and resentment as after the first half the vocalist screams like Demis Roussos of Aphrodite's Child gone completely mad on a really terrible hair day. Whether this take will freak you, blow you away, or antagonize you really isn't easy to answer as you will probably be freaked by how unlike the original it is, be blown away by the clever arrangement, and you might hate the guy's guts for screaming so much and going crazy. It kind of fits with the rest of this very strange album. Only the first year of the 70s and the youthful joy and optimism of the 60s is gone. It is so tragic. Music would go on to be just as or at least nearly as exciting as the 60s, but as I have said if you only like light psychedelic pop rock avoid this album- your narrow mind won't be able to understand a word or a note of it. I've never understood the appeal of what I call "Glee Club Psych" like The Strawberry Alarm Clock or The Free Design- to me it sounds like some kind of "The Beatles Never Happened" nightmare. That is not the case here!
"Winnifried Jellicoe" has the worst opening line of the album, but the song manages to overcome its overt attempt to be the band's "Eleanor Rigby" by utilizing very clever vocals, mood changes, and instrumentation. I've never liked songs about old people, but this one is actually crazy enough to be good. There are some astonishing harmonies and the flute player in the band really is great for the whole album and adds a special sound to their music which is closer to the melodic playing of Peter Gabriel in Genesis than the abrasive style made famous by Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson (another great one). I've always loved the flute so that is quite nice on this album and it makes up for the absence of guitar solos. Like the rest of the album "Winnifried Jellicoe" is both stark and with a bit of a tropical breeze thrown in. The lyrics deal with the decay of old age and senility, but they also tell a rather amazing love story that happened a very long time in the past.
"Ruo Moko" is sung in the band's native tongue and manages to convey both an atom shower storm and a tropical vacation lazing by palm trees and bright sunshine at the same time! There is an unsettling vibe to this whole album. It really keeps you wondering just how much darker it can get and if anything is safe on offer by the New Zealand Trading Company. "Ruo Moko" as I don't understand Maori it could mean any number of things, but they are probably attempting the statement "We Are Proud Of Who We Are And You Won't Knock Us Down Again."
"Could Be" is the brightest song on the album along with "Oh What A Day" with some great harmonies, more jazz influences, and some cool tropical percussion effects. There are some great heavy psychedelic guitar solos, beautiful vocals, and a really bright vibe that is a rarity of only two tracks on the album this and "Oh What A Day." Their sound is very Danish/Dutch for the whole album and that makes it very unique especially for an album that to my knowledge only gained a tiny American release.
"The Prisoner" is where New Zealand Trading Company are at their very most disturbing. This creepy, violent, and raw, graphic story song chronicles a crazed and even more insanely desiring to get back to his "woman" escaped felon who begins by senselessly killing the dogs that are set after him during his failed run to the state border and ends on the grim note of him getting fried in an electric chair. This is the hardest track to be subjected to, but very well-written and performed. It's a great song and a very clever song, but really frightening lyrically and the music is almost as creepily phrased as the story of the track. When I listen to this I feel each time that this is really a statement of pacifism. They are saying that if you kill a living thing you will die violently. I wish it were that way. I wish that even saying cruel words could lead to something bad happening to you that would either make you change your attitude or be severely punished. I think we've all wished something horrible to happen to somebody at many times in our life. This song begins with a man who has no reason to live except to murder and ends with his death. That could have more meaning than you think on first listening.
"Total Stranger" ends things on a depressed and completely dejected note. However, this is a real standout track with a great use of organ and a very European vibe with again a very thickly accented voice. The affair has gone sour and there is no reason to live anymore is only the bare narrative of the lyric. There is something deeper than most broken hearted songs here and that is a sense of being a completely lost outsider who has been turned away from the one he loves to the point of severe depression. The vocal is solo this time with no harmonies, very stark, and full of what sounds like real pain and anguish. There is a brutal guitar solo and an Aphrodite's Child gone into miserable near suicidal depression vibe about this.. This record is a lot like Ache and I love it nearly as much as I love Ache's PICTURES FROM CYCLUS 7. The major differences here are mainly that no two albums are exactly alike and that instead of ending on a note of optimism like Ache New Zealand Trading Company end with despair. This is probably the best Northern European fucked up progressive album not recorded by a Northern European band! Think now of how strange that is. I can't fathom how they came up with this record. A Maori band who sound like Europeans I would think would be impossible- even the Maori band part is a real exception. If you want something mild and sunshine oriented like the wrong descriptions of this you'll be horrified by it, but if you want a great, brilliant, amazing psych into progressive masterpiece you can place up there with the best look no further. If you find this album and you love that dark freaky European sound then don't pass up the opportunity to hear a great record. I'd highly recommend New Zealand Trading Company. It has a permanent place in my collection.